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BBC study highlights “shocking disparity” of blue badge scheme

BBC study highlights “shocking disparity” of blue badge scheme
8th January 2021 Ian Streets

People with non-visible disabilities such as autism or Parkinson’s disease face a “shocking disparity” when applying for a blue badge parking permit, according to an investigation by the BBC.

The study by the BBC Shared Data Unit found that scores of councils have lower approval rates for non-visible disabilities applications compared to those for physical impairments.

The Unit, which makes data journalism available to news organisations across the media industry, as part of a partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association, obtained Freedom of Information Act (FOI) responses from the 216 upper-tier councils across the UK.

Blue badge applications from people with hidden disabilities began in England in August 2019 and were already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Of the 109 councils who gave full responses to the BBC, eight out of 10 had higher approval rates for people with physical impairments. For ten of those councils, the difference was greater than 50 percentage points.

James Taylor of Scope told the BBC: “This new data shows a shocking disparity between the allocations of blue badges to people with invisible and visible impairments.

“Councils need to understand the devastating impact their negative decision can have.”

Scope highlighted the problems presented by the removal of accessible parking bays next to shops and amenities “overnight, without any consultation” to allow for social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tim Nicholls, head of policy and public affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “These figures highlight the postcode lottery that has developed around blue badges.

“This must change. Getting a blue badge when you need one shouldn’t depend on where you live.”

Paul Edwards, director of clinical services at Dementia UK, said: “These lower blue badge approval rates for people with non-visible disabilities show how some of the most vulnerable people continue to be left behind.

“For both family carers and people with dementia still able to drive, a blue badge permit could help to minimise any safety risks by allowing closer parking to entrances. It can also decrease feelings of anxiety around going out.”

Crohns and Colitis UK said access to toilets was an extremely important issue for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, but many callers to its helpline had been refused a blue badge permit by their local council.

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